Known as Bridgewater Colliery under the Bridgewater Trustees’ ownership, Sandhole lay two miles east-north-east of Mosley Common and throughout its life had a high reputation for the quality of its products. Sinking commenced in 1865, with two shafts initially, but the colliery quite quickly developed to four shafts of which No.4 was purely an upcast ventilation shaft.
The winding engines at Nos.1 & 2 Pit were contained in a single ornamental engine house between the shafts. Both engines were twin cylinder vertical 30in x 60in with slide valves, built by Nasmyth, Wilson in 1866. Both engines were in continuous use until closure of the colliery in 1962. The two shafts were 12 feet diameter and achieved final depths of 563 and 566 yards respectively. Timber headgear survived at No.2 Pit until 1935 when a reinforced concrete headgear was completed. The headgear at No.1 Pit had been replaced by a lattice girder structure some time previously.
Sandhole No.3 Pit was initially sunk to 330 yards and was 14ft 6in diameter. A twin cylinder horizontal winding engine 36in x 72in was erected in a house with some decorative embellishment. Because of a tract of quicksand common in this area and hence the name of the colliery, the engine house had to be built on piled foundations. The shaft was deepened to 565 yards in 1943, the deepened portion being made 16 feet diameter. At the same time the winding engine was replaced by the last newly built steam winding engine in the coalfield. The engine was a twin cylinder horizontal 36in x 66in, with piston valves and was built by the Worsley Mesnes Iron-works, Wigan. The engine did good work and could raise 160 tons an hour from the full depth of the shaft at four tons per wind. There was some criticism of the engine that the design was old fashioned and certainly there was no concession to the expansive use of steam in the form of automatic cut-off gear.
No.4 Pit was 14ft 6in diameter and was sunk to the Doe Mine at 432 yards. The shaft was used entirely for upcast ventilation and emergencies and travel in the shaft was by kibble. The winding engine was a surprisingly large twin cylinder horizontal 21in x 48in and a 10ft diameter drum, built by Robert Stephenson. This engine was replaced about 1957 by a small twin cylinder winch. The ventilating fan was a Walker ‘Indestructible’ 24ft diameter by 8ft wide designed to circulate 300,000cfm at three inch water gauge. It was driven by a cross-compound horizontal engine 21in + 38in x 42in stroke fitted with Meyer expansion slide valves. Engine and fan were built in 1897 and lasted until 1957 when an axial flow fan in a new concrete house was installed. Latterly the Walker fan had been driven by an electric motor but the steam engine was retained as a stand-by.
Electrical power was obtained from the power house at Mosley Common Colliery but there were two large air compressors at Sandhole. These were cross-compound horizontal with two-stage air cylinders and had capacities of 6000 and 10000cfm. They had been made by Robey and Walker Bros. in 1915 and 1927 respectively.
Compressed air was in use at a much earlier date than this however, and Walker Bros. supplied a coupled pair of air compressors with 24in x 48in steam cylinders in 1883. They also supplied a pair of 26in x 48in compressors but these are not traceable in Walker Bros. plan books. Both of the large compressors were taken out of use about 1957.
Steam was supplied to the surface plant from two boiler houses. The boiler house at Nos.1 & 2 Pit had six Lancashire boilers working at 105psi with a 240 tube Green’s economiser and three boilers fitted with superheaters. This ‘firehole’ supplied the winding engines at Nos.1 and 2 Pit. At No.3 Pit the boiler plant consisted of eight Lancashire boilers working at 120psi, one with a superheater and again with a 243 tube economiser. Each boiler plant had its own chimney virtually identical and some 160 feet high. Later alterations involved the removal of the cap of Nos.1 & 2 Pit chimney with the loss of about five feet in height but No.3 Pit chimney was damaged in an air raid in World War II and had to be drastically reduced in height to 130 feet. The boilers and chimney at Nos.1 & 2 Pit were demolished about 1958 as with the lessening of steam demand due to electrification of the fan and cessation of air compressing the boilers at No. 3 Pit were able to cope with the whole of the steam load.
The prime coal of the coalfield, the Trencherbone, was absent in the sinkings due to the geological phenomenon of a washout, the coal being replaced by sandstone. Nos.1 & 2 Pit were sunk to the Cannel Mine which is below the Trencherbone horizon. Too good not to be worked, the Trencherbone was found and was extensively worked to the east in an area immediately to the south of old workings in Kearsley and Clifton. In spite of a 120 yard barrier being left between the former Clifton Moss Colliery workings, water broke into the Sandhole Trencherbone and very seriously affected the workings.
Sandhole Colliery was considerably developed by Manchester Collieries Ltd. The deepening of No.3 Pit has already been mentioned and coincident with this was the driving of a long level haulage tunnel for locomotives. Diesel locomotives were used at first but in 1949 Metro-Vick electric locomotives were introduced which collected current by pantograph from an overhead wire. This was a highly successful installation made possible by the very high standard of ventilation at the colliery.
Coal preparation was by screening and washing and separate screens were provided at Nos.1 & 2 Pit and No.3 Pit. A felspar washer capable of handling 350 tons per day was built in 1893 by Sheppard & Sons, Bridgend, Glamorgan. In 1925 a Baum Jig washer was built by Simon-Carves which could deal with 150 tons an hour. During the war years a froth-flotation plant was added. This plant also dealt with coal from Mosley Common Colliery until 1950.
Geological difficulties led to high costs in the early 1960s and the colliery was closed in 1962, demolition taking place in 1964. The washer continued until 1968 but the site has now been completely levelled and largely obliterated by motorway construction.
Associated with Sandhole Colliery was the small Hollins Field Pit. This was a relic of the old Wardley pits and was used initially as an upcast furnace shaft for Sandhole. With the eventual elimination of furnace ventilation, this role ceased but the shaft continued to be an integral part of the Sandhole ventilation system until closure in 1962. Hollins Field shaft was 462 yards deep with a timber headgear and single rope pulley. Access to the shaft was by kibble with a single cylinder horizontal winding engine. Steam was supplied by a Cornish boiler served by a short square chimney. With the later abundance of compressed air from the new compressing plant at Sandhole, an air main was laid across to Hollins Field. A twin cylinder horizontal winch was installed and the boiler and chimney demolished.
SANDHOLE COLLIERY – No. 1 Pit
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